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Welcome to the Energiewende: An interview with Craig Morris on his new documentary celebrating Germany's Energy Transition

Interview conducted by Solar Server International Correspondent Christian Roselund

Craig Morris
Craig Morris

Craig Morris (@PPchef) is the lead author of German Energy Transition, a website that explains Germany's Energy Transition to the world in English. Born and educated in the US, he founded Petite Planète translation service in 2002 and has been working in the renewables sector ever since. In 2006, he published Energy Switch, the English edition of his German book from 2005 entitled Zukunftsenergien. Since 2010, he has written every workday for Renewables International. Based in Freiburg since 1992, he publishes in both English and German.

In this interview, Craig Morris will be discussing his new documentary, Welcome to the Energiewende, which can be seen at http://welcometotheenergiewende.blogspot.de/


Solar Server: What was the inspiration to make this documentary?

Craig Morris: I wanted to celebrate Germany's energy transition as a grassroots movement. The Energiewende has been going on for decades. The Germans are currently debating how to transition from renewables as a marginal source to renewables as a major source before moving on to a majority of green energy by mid-century. But the debate sounds like everyone hates the transition when translated; basically, it's people complaining about each other's proposals.

So I wanted to step back and celebrate what has been achieved so far by reminding everyone that Germany is not only switching to renewables and lower consumption, but also to energy democracy -- normal citizens drive the movement.


Solar Server: You've talked about how this video explains the energy transition without technical jargon. Who is your target audience, and why?

Craig Morris: The movement started in the 1970s, when citizens began reaching out to experts skeptical of the conventional energy sector. German citizens have since learned a lot about energy -- the head of Paris-based renewables organization Ren21 once said that every taxi driver in Germany sounds like an energy expert -- but it all started out with this conversation between laypeople and experts.

My documentary takes the discussion back to this level. The target audience is laypeople because I focus on the democratic aspect of distributed renewables. Americans in particular have yet to realize that the role of corporations can be much smaller in a renewable future. We do not need them to build renewables, but US policy -- especially RPSs -- is based on forcing these firms to provide more renewable power. The Germans couldn't care less whether their corporations go green; if the firms don't, the people will do it themselves.


Solar Server: Is this a particularly important time to be discussing the EnergyTransition? Why?

Craig Morris: Exactly because of green power is cutting into medium and baseload power, thereby lowering corporate profits. German democracy is so strong we can do that; citizens get what they want even if big business takes a hit. In the US, the firms would go on TV saying that all this green energy is raising prices, but the Germans don't care because they are building it themselves, so they pay these high prices back to themselves, their neighbors, and their communities.

And no, the poor are not left out -- I spend two chapters in the movie (3 and 4) showing how social housing is being improved thanks to revenue from PV and how the most efficient architecture (Passive House) is also being built for the poor.


Solar Server: I notice that most of the documentary takes place in Germany, with one section in New Orleans. Can you talk about the significance of New Orleans to you personally and in the film?

Craig Morris: I am from New Orleans, and we also had a 16-year-old exchange student from India in the movie. In fact, my kids ask the questions to the experts with him. After all, our decisions today will affect their adulthood, so they should have a say, and they should be told the facts.

In the end, we have a funeral parade like in New Orleans to bury the carbon in the ground and move on to a cleaner renewable future. As a celebration, there is music a few times in the film -- we tell the story of conservatives driving the movement (another thing you don't really have in the US) since the 1980s in a music video with bluegrass (chapter 10) in the background. And I also made a music video (chapter 13) for a funk song as the "Energiewende song".

So yea, New Orleans is in everything I do a bit, and it's in the movie in various ways ;-)


Solar Server: Anything we didn't cover that you think is important for our readers to know?

Craig Morris: The movie is viewable in chapters or as a single film here: http://welcometotheenergiewende.blogspot.de/. Anyone who wants to promote the movie or use it in their own campaigning can just take it, but you can also contact me if you want to work together.

Once a centralized renewable energy infrastructure is built in corporate hands, we are not going to tear it down just to rebuild a distributed one owned by citizens. Every utility-scale wind farm and solar plant marginalizes the role of community power. There will only be one energy transition, so the time to make it democratic is now.